On our last trip to Cuba we had planned to concentrate our time in Havana, but knowing that the city can get pretty intense, I wanted to make sure we had at least a day escape. On our prior trip to Cuba, one of our favourite spots was Vinales and the organic farm (read about it here) so I wanted to explore more of the lush side of Cuba. Some research lead me to Las Terrazas.
In 1968 Castro set about to restore Cuba’s forests that had been destroyed by Spanish conquistadors and later the French, when the land was ripped up to make room for coffee plantations. In 1492 it’s estimated the island was 90% forest by the revolution this had dropped to 11%. The government restored 1,360km of land in the Sierra del Rosario mountains and the community of Las Terrazas was born. Thanks to these projects Cuba is now approximately 25% forest.
Las Terrazas is home to only 1000 residents (and one hotel) as well as 82 bird species, 50% of which are endemic Cuba and 900 reported plant species, 34% are endemic to Cuba. In 1984 the area was designated a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve.
The home of Polo Montañez a famous Cuban country singer who passed away in 2002. We also visited the home of artist Lester Campa next door.
A special coffee at Café de Maria – the Las Terrazas is made by blending espresso with milk, chocolate syrup, coffee liqueur and ice. It was delicious.
Soroa Orchid Botanical Garden
The Soroa Orchid Botanical garden is home to 25,000 species of orchid, 100 of which are endemic to Cuba. We had a tour of the garden and learned two main things, orchids are like air plants and grow on trees, this type of plant is known as an epiphyte (who knew??!) and Cubans really love to nickname their plants.
These are super sour “pickles” – we ate them raw off the tree.
Cuban’s call this the “Mother in Law” plant – because it has two faces….
Don Tomás Felipe Camacho, who built the garden to honor his daughter in 1943
Mamay juice and the fruit. I had never heard of this fruit, let alone tried it, before this day. It’s very sweet and creamy. It’s juice was thick like a shake. Extremely rich.
Our guide called this the “Tina Turner plant” El Romero – Vegetarian Restaurant
El Romero is Cuba’s “finest” vegetarian restaurant, everything the restaurant serves is grown in Las Terrazas. Everything is grown organically and naturally, the use solar power, composting and practice recycling. If this restaurant were in Los Angeles, it would be the height of chic.
Infused water – pineapple, orange and basil. Served with a sugar cane straw.
A bean pancake served with the daily steamed vegetables and a “Jinette” a yam and beans medallion marinated with garlic, herbs and onions. Buenavista Coffee Plantation
The Buenavista Coffee plantation is a two-hundred year old French-Haitian coffee plantation. The ruins of the former plantation are set in terraces and are a sad look back at Cuba’s slave trade past.
The view over the terraces was incredible, and as a thunderstorm rolled in we hopped back in the car, out of the humidity and headed back to Havana.